Feelings are peculiar things. Some people seem to consider them illusions, glosses that we paint, consciously or unconsciously, over reality and that affect our perception of that reality.
Some people look at the biological aspect of emotions, the chemical and electrical triggers. To these folks, perhaps, feelings are more substantial in nature, phenomena that have clear (even if science has not yet fully explained them) causes and effects.
Some believe that emotion, sensitivity to energies, even extra-sensory-perception (ESP) are senses like sight and smell, things that tell us about the reality around us.
And then there are those, like me, who believe that all three are true. I’ve seen how my emotions can cloud my perception, I’ve felt the chemical “switch” in my brain tick over and throw me into a depression that has no external cause. But I’ve also had experiences that tell me there is more to reality. If I am right about that last bit, and if we are capable of perceiving it, then our emotions may be part of a continuum of senses that tell us about the intangible.
C. S. Lewis, in one of his essays that I am too lazy at present to look for, talks about the difference between observation and experience, of how someone who is in love knows love in one way, and someone observing someone in love knows it another way, and how it is not immediately clear which experience is the more “true” or “accurate,” if, even, that question has any meaning. For I believe, and I think Lewis would agree with me, that both are true, but in different ways. I’ve spent most of my life as the observer, and it has taught me a great deal.
Part of me doesn’t trust emotion. This part of me used to be much stronger than it is now. In fact, it used to rule me. This part sees emotions as irrational (which, to be fair, they are), and therefore untrustworthy at best, and dangerous at worst. Much of what I have observed over the years bears up this assumption.
Years ago, now, I ran up against the limits of my rational mind. It was like hitting a wall at high speed. It broke me. And I remained broken until I accepted that other ways of knowing have value, and that the rational mind is only capable of evaluating part of reality. Since then, with my prejudice against emotion weakened, I’ve been able to see the good it does in our lives, as well.
To put it another way, I am aware of the science behind sight. How light bounces off matter, is filtered by my eyes, bounced and refracted and then translated into images by my brain. I know that things can go wrong with this process, that it isn’t entirely trustworthy, and that at best, it is only showing me a tiny sliver (the visible spectrum) of reality. But at the same time, if it were not for this flawed perception, what would I know of the light? I need sight, even if I cannot always trust it entirely.
Perhaps emotions are similar in regard to the unseen world. They’re imperfect, only representative of a small input of information, and translated by an organ that is notoriously unreliable. But without them, what would I know of anything beyond the material world?
This has become particularly relevant to me lately as I am dealing with an extremely irrational and incapacitating emotion: I’m in love.
I may be more comfortable with my emotions than I was ten years ago, but this is in a league of its own. I have moments where my rational brain is screaming at me that I can’t be trusted, and other moments where the very same rational brain reluctantly admits that there is no way that I am going to be rational about this. And that that is ok. As long as I try not to be stupid, it’s time to take risks.
Some background: I’m 35. This is the first time I’ve been in love. I’ve had crushes, none of which were ever reciprocated. I’ve been on a few dates here and there, none of which turned into anything. I’ve had people crush on me when I couldn’t reciprocate, and once I was stalked, which sucks.
But now I have feelings for someone who also has feelings for me. This is completely new territory. I alternate from being emotionally overwhelmed in a pleasant way, to being overwhelmed with fear of the unknown. “…For love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away. If one were to give all the wealth of one’s house for love, it would be utterly scorned.” Song of Songs 8:6-7
It seems I have reason to fear. And that fear is compounded by my instinct to not trust emotion. My rational mind is not disengaged. I don’t even know how to disengage it. But I am well aware that this is not the time to be purely rational.
I am rambling, at at nearly 900 words I’d best wrap this up soon. I am not even sure what my point is, other than to see my thoughts placed into words.
If anything, I guess it is a question tossed into the ether: For someone who’s default is rational, who knows that even the best relationships are challenging, and who, though she has faith in a higher benevolent power who has her back, also believes that that doesn’t protect her from worldly consequences, how is it possible to fall in love?
And how far is too far to fall?